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Macrobiotic Diet | How does it work? What to eat?
Macrobiotic Diet How does it work? What to eat?

Macrobiotic Diet
How does it work? What to eat?

Date: June 12, 2020

The macrobiotic diet, is a real lifestyle, rather than a food approach. In this post, we will investigate the origins, the foods to eat, those to avoid, the particularities, and scientific evidence of this particular diet.

Origins of the macrobiotic diet

The first popularizer of this type of diet was the Japanese physician Nyioti Sakurazawa who, observing and imitating the nutrition of Buddhist monks, developed the basis. The macrobiotic diet, therefore, embraces oriental culture and philosophy, pursuing a state of well-being through the achievement of the balance between Yin and Yang. The foods we eat were therefore divided into:

  •  Acid-Yin foods, such as milk and dairy products, fruit, tea, spices, etc.
  •  Alkaline- Yang foods, such as salt, meat, fish, chicken, eggs, etc.

The basic concept is the search for balance between these food sources by promoting the intake of certain foods considered naturally balanced such as cereals, legumes, and oilseeds. Nutrition acquires in this context fundamental importance in the balance between body and mind. The word "macrobiotic" originates from the Greek makros+bios and means a great/long life.

Recommended foods and foods to avoid

tavolo con alimenti consigliati nella dieta macrobiotica

Recommended foods

  •  Take fruit and vegetables as a source of fiber and simple sugars;
  •  Prefer fish and legumes over meat (to be consumed a maximum of 4 times a week);
  •  Do not exceed with: milk and derivatives, spices, earth salt, and coffee;
  •  Prefer whole wheat bread;
  •  Pizza can be eaten occasionally, not very elaborate and with minimal quantities of tomato and mozzarella;
  •  For raw flavorings, the salt can be replaced by Gomashio;
  •  The tea should be replaced with Japanese bancha tea or kukicha tea, whose caffeine content is very low.

Foods to Avoid

  •  Avoid sophisticated/refined foods and prefer natural production foods;
  •  Avoid sugar and sweets, as a substitute to use first of all cereal malt otherwise rice or wheat syrup;
  •  Among the vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines are not recommended;
  •  Crustaceans are prohibited;
  •  Dried fruit should be eaten occasionally and nuts should be avoided;
  •  The consumption of sausages should be avoided;
  •  Avoid the egg;
  •  Wine vinegar should be avoided (replaceable with umeboshi);
  •  Avoid both spirits and carbonated and sugary drinks;
  •  Do not overdo the consumption of water.

The macrobiotic diet takes particular care of the chewing process to guarantee digestive efficacy and satisfy the taste.

Macrobiotic diet: how does it work?


The high intake of liquid or brothy foods induces a reduction of the water requirement and favors the absorption of the cooking solutes.


The protein percentage is mainly given by proteins of vegetable origin. For those who are not experts in vegetarian/vegan approaches, it is always better to consult a professional who can recommend the most suitable sources and combinations.


The energy requirement supported abundantly by carbohydrates, which are distributed in a balanced way between complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates.



The lipid content is reduced and the ratio between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids is not optimal but the habit of preferring fish to meat (as well as the high consumption of vegetables) favors the achievement of the recommended intake levels of essential Omega 3 fats. is
Omega 6.

Tips for cooking and eating meals


Cooking utensils for cooking should be mainly stainless steel, enameled iron, or cast-iron containers, while aluminum or copper containers should be avoided. Regarding the environment and the methods of eating meals, the aim is to search for a quiet place and a relaxed attitude, to be able to focus on a long chew and promote digestive processes.

Percentages of food-types in the diet

piatto con cibo macrobiotico

  • 50%: whole grains in grains;
  • 20 to 30%: raw and cooked seasonal vegetables;
  • 10 to 20%: white meat, fish or legumes, seitan, soy croquettes, etc.
  • 10%: fresh seasonal fruit, or seaweed.

Macrobiotic diet: what does scientific research say?

Arguments in favor

Recently, the macrobiotic diet has aroused new interest as a diet regimen that can be used to prevent the appearance of many ailments.For this reason, it can be said that the aspects more related to its application philosophy have somehow been put aside compared to a more thoughtful scientific-practical application. In addition to the part related to the macrobiotic diet, the research has taken into consideration other applications of the principles on which macrobiotic philosophy is based, for example:

  •  greater emphasis on physical activity;
  •  reduced exposure to pesticides and other chemicals and electromagnetic radiation
  •  stress reduction

All useful factors for cancer prevention [1,2]. Philosophically, the macrobiotic diet promotes the concept that phenomena are universal and related. Patients who adhere to this lifestyle necessarily take an active role in their treatment, i.e. make the necessary lifestyle changes.


One of the biggest criticisms of this type of dietary approach concerns the possible nutritional deficiencies caused by prolonged use. Cases of infants with symptoms of malnutrition (including vitamin B12 and D deficiency) have been reported in the medical literature [5-7]. The possibility of these types of nutritional deficiencies has been documented in repeated surveys of groups of children and families who have followed a macrobiotic lifestyle [8-14].

These nutritional status studies, mainly in infants or growing children, have long been the basis for most indications against the use of macrobiotic diets to treat many types of diseases. Assuming that any type of treatment that creates a situation of nutritional deficiency is highly discouraged; many doctors believe that imposing dietary restrictions is potentially dangerous for patients who are already losing significant amounts of weight due to disease or related drug treatment.

Macrobiotic diet and cancer

On the other hand, these nutritional restrictions have been proposed to help slow the progression of cancer by starving the rapidly reproducing cells responsible for the disease [15].

According to the 1997 report made by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund, the increase in daily consumption of fruit and vegetables from 250g to 400g can lead to 20% fewer cancer cases worldwide world [16]. A growing body of evidence suggests that the consumption of whole grains can reduce the risk of cancer at various anatomical sites [17].

Since macrobiotics supports a diet with high consumption of vegetables and whole grains, a logical assumption related to what has been stated above may suggest that the macrobiotic diet regime should also help reduce the risk of cancer. However, very few studies specifically suggest the macrobiotic diet as an effective cancer prevention method.

Macrobiotic diet and overweight

In addition to its anti-inflammatory nutritional profile, the macrobiotic diet is, as mentioned, a relatively low-calorie dietary approach but still maintains sufficient concentrations for most nutrients, thanks to its high nutrient density. Restrictive calorie intake can help reduce body weight over time in people who consume a macrobiotic diet.

Overweight and obesity are positively associated with higher levels of chronic inflammation [18]. In a recent article, a positive protective effect of the macrobiotic diet on the outcomes related to diabetes mellitus is highlighted [19]. In this study, participants in a macrobiotic diet saw a favorable change in body weight, lipid values, reduction of oxidative stress, and improvement of insulin secretion. After 6 months of macrobiotic intervention, the following have been observed:

  •  significant reductions in body weight (-9.0%),
  •  total cholesterol (-16.4%),
  •  LDL "bad" cholesterol (-22.7%),
  •  triglycerides (-37.0%);
  •  increase in "good" HDL cholesterol (+ 97.8%).

After this brief analysis of the scientific literature, it can be said that the macrobiotic diet has the potential to help in the prevention and control of diseases, particularly through its characteristic of being low in calories and high in nutrient density. This can be useful for those populations where excessive calorie consumption and obesity represent a great risk to public health, represent the first factor of recommendation and prevention of some types of diseases [20].






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